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How does obesity raise my risk of cancer?

4:19 PM, Apr 5, 2011   |    comments
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By Kay Quinn, Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - About 100,000 new cases of cancer are caused by obesity every year. In this week's '8 Ways to Prevent Cancer' segment, NewsChannel 5 takes a look how those extra pounds raise your risk.

"I think it's really important for people to realize that obesity has lots of different health effects," says Dr. Kate Wolin, a researcher at Siteman Cancer Center.

It can increase your risk of at least eight different types of cancer: breast, ovarian, endometrial, kidney, colorectal, pancreatic, and esophageal and cancer of the gallbladder. Obesity is typically defined as having a body mass index over 30.

"It really is something that has a wide range of effects," says Dr. Wolin.

That's because cancer isn't just one disease, but individual diseases, and the mechanism is different for each cancer.

"Some cancers it might be that adipose tissue or fat tissue has a hormonal effect, so some of the estrogens in breast cancer," says Dr. Wolin. "So having more adipose tissue increases your circulating estrogen levels."

For others, obesity can lead to inflammation in the body which triggers cancer.

"So it varies from cancer type to cancer type what we think the most likely mechanism is," says Dr. Wolin.
The good news is, even a little bit of weight loss can lower your risk."

"There is research that suggests losing weight, even small amounts of weight has an important risk reduction effect."

In fact, there's evidence that even losing as little as five pounds can significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Send us your questions about cancer prevention.

Go to the features tab on theksdk.com home page, click on "8 Ways" in the drop-down menu.  We may answer your question on the air.

KSDK

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